Le Petit Cirque

I just finished reading a book called “Le Grand Cirque” (the Big Circus).
It was written by Pierre Clostermann, a young Frenchman who enlisted in the RAF at the beginning of World War Two and scored 33 “kill” between 1942 and 1945.
In his book, he describes the fears and exhilaration of a fighter pilot engaged in almost daily dogfights with the enemy.

So, it is all pumped up that on November 4, I boarded (parachute, oxygen mask, regulation Smith & Wesson, Escape Envelope*) a 4 seat, single engine Piper PA-28-161.

Our pilot is Volodia, a family friend and a cool, skinny young chap in his mid-thirties.
The plane also carries his 7-year-old son (who, through regular flights with daddy, knows more about flying than most of us) plus Tamara and myself.

The Gnoss Novato field doesn’t have a control tower and I am surprised to see airplanes landing and taking off without seemingly any kind of supervision.

We strap ourselves to our seats.
Our pilot hands us a set of headphones so that we can all communicate with each other, and most importantly with some guys on the ground who are keeping track of our position in the big blue yonder.

Cockpit drill. BTFCPPUR (Brakes, Trim, Flaps, Contacts, Pressure, Petrol, Undercarriage, Radiator) and after a very short dash on the runway we are airborne.

“Hello Filmstar, Yellow and Blue climb and attack fighters above. Pink, Black and White engage Huns below. Filmstar Red diving for strafe… Go!”

Actually, we are flying at about 80 mph and climbing unhurriedly. It seems that we are moving slower than in a car.
The day is beautiful, with lots of sunshine, and very soon it becomes fairly hot in the cockpit.
I look above and under but cannot see what is behind us.
Careful, “the Hun is always in the sun”.

Very soon we are at 2000 feet flying leisurely at 120 mph.
We are heading toward San Francisco. We are flying over Marin County, San Quentin, Sausalito, Alcatraz, the Oakland Bay Bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge and finally over San Francisco.

The pilot occasionally tips his wings to give us a better look at some famous landmarks and allow us to take photographs. Unfortunately the yellowish plastic canopy of the plane prevents us from taking clear pictures of the ground.

Coming over San Francisco I am surprised to discover that a plane is allowed to fly over such a densely populated area.
I am expecting any minute to see the back venomous mushrooms of ack-ack guns exploding around us.

We are loitering over the city for a while and follow the coast up to Stinson beach.Things look amazingly different seen from the sky.

We spend about 45 minutes over the Bay Area and head back to Novato.

I suggest a “victory roll” over the airport to Volodia. Surprisingly he nixes the idea.
From the co-pilot seat, I can see the landing strip approaching, but very soon the nose of the plane obscures the runway and I cannot see the ground anymore.
I trust Volodia who swore on holy icons that he already landed a plane more than twice.
The landing is extremely smooth. Spassiba Volodia!

On the ground again.
Time to go to the officers’ mess and gulp a few beers while bragging about our encounters with nasty Focke Wulf 190 and even nastier Messerschmitt 109.

Alain

PS: I was not really carrying a parachute, oxygen mask, regulation Smith & Wesson and Escape Envelope, but it sounded much better that way. Don’t you think so?

*The Escape Envelope contained 20 000 French Francs, 5000 Belgian Francs and 1000 Dutch guilders. Its purpose was to facilitate the escape of a pilot shot down over enemy territory.

***To look at pictures of this event, turn the sound on, click on the “Home” link at the top of the page, and click again on “My photos” located on the right side of the page.

 

Parlez-vous l’argot ?

Ce que le monde a besoin plus que jamais en ces temps difficiles c’est un remède contre la morosité. Une morosité épidémique qui s’étend maintenant sur pratiquement tous les pays du monde. Pour être efficace cependant il faut que ce remède soit effectif et bon marché.
Et bien, n’allez pas chercher midi à quatorze heures, cette potion magique existe et elle est a portée de la main.
Aujourd’hui je vous offre  « gratos » ce remède universel qui est le Rire.

*******************

L’autre jour j’étais sur le terrain de pétanque en train de papoter avec mon collègue Luc Pouget quand deux joueurs se sont pris le bec, comme d’habitude pour des choses insignifiantes.
Au bout de quelques minutes, lassé par ces fadaises, Luc s’est  exclamé :
Eh les mecs, faites pas chier la veuve !

Cette expression que je ne connaissais pas m’a bien fait rigoler, et cela m’a immédiatement rappelé mon enfance quand tous les gosses de mon quartier s’évertuaient a « jaspiner » en argot.

Faute de m’en servir, j’ai oublié la plupart de ces mots et expressions, mais en trainant mes guêtres sur la Toile j’ai découvert Jean-Philippe Querton, et j’ai retrouvé quelques locutions rigolotes que  je partage maintenant avec vous.
Il faut aussi se rappeler que l’argot Parisien n’a rien à voir avec l’argot Marseillais et que ce qui est évident pour un parisien  ne l’est certainement pas pour un Breton ou un Provençal.

J’aime l’anglais pour son style concis et sa malléabilité, mais je préfère de loin le Français pour son coté poétique. Pourrait-on en effet de parler d’un « bande-a-l’aise » dans la langue de Shakespeare? J’en doute.

Voici donc quelques expressions glanées sur la toile :

Aller manger du fromage
Au 19eme siècle lorsqu’on allait manger du fromage, cela signifiait qu’on allait à un enterrement.

Aller pisser à l’anglaise
S’absenter pour ne pas payer son écot. Se défiler discrètement. Un peu comme « filer à l’anglaise ». Les Anglais nous le rendent d’ailleurs bien puisqu’ils disent « filer à française ».

Avoir des oranges sur l’étagère
Se dit de la dame qui possède une belle gorge.
Une femme dotĂ©e d’une belle paire de seins a des “arguments“, “de la conversation“. On dit aussi qu’elle a “du monde au balcon” ou qu’elle possède des  “jumeaux frĂ©missants“.

Avoir une araignée au plafond
Etre un peu fou, avoir des lubies, mais sans que ce comportement soit gĂŞnant ou dangereux pour les autres.

Bande-à-l’aise
Une personne insouciante, un je-m’en-foutiste, quelqu’un qui ne se tracasse jamais.

Changer l’eau des olives
Uriner (pour les hommes)

Consoler son café
Y ajouter de l’eau-de-vie où un alcool quelconque.

Écrire à Bismarck
Déféquer, faire caca, chier… A l’opposé, avoir le bouchon ficelé évoque des difficultés défécatoires.

Faire de la flanelle
Se dit de quelqu’un qui vient flâner dans un lupanar sans avoir l’intention de consommer l’une des demoiselles qui propose ses services.

Faire petite chapelle
Cette jolie expression venant du vieux français signifie dégrafer son corsage pour montrer ses seins.

Faire sa mouquette
Montrer son derrière, baisser son froc. Les fesses, elles, sont appelées les deux sœurs.
On ne le dit plus aujourd’hui, mais un joli postĂ©rieur fĂ©minin s’appelait autrefois un “suivez-moi jeune homme“.

Faire sa Sophie
Concernant une femme, se montrer hautaine, adopter une attitude méprisante, se la péter.

Fumer une souche
Moins connue que l’expression manger des pissenlits par la racine, celle-ci possède le même sens : être enterré.

Enculeur de mouches
C’est l’équivalent de cheveu coupé en quatre. On dit aussi chipoter sur des détails ou être extrêmement tatillon.

Manger du lard
DĂ©noncer, se mettre Ă  table. Certains mangent du lard avec ou chez les poulets.

S’embarquer sans biscuit
Faire preuve d’imprudence, prendre des risques, se lancer dans une aventure, oser…

Se ronger le cul Ă  la vinaigrette
Expression qui signifie simplement s’ennuyer.

PĂ©daler dans la choucroute:
Patauger, perdre ses moyens, perdre le fil de ses pensées

Quelques autres expressions imagées:

Laisser pisser le mérinos: laisser courir, laisser aller les choses, laisser faire.

S’en tamponner le coquillard: s’en moquer complètement (de quelqu’un ou quelque chose)

PĂ©ter dans la soie : ĂŞtre riche, vivre dans l’opulence

Tenir le crachoir : avoir le monopole de la conversation, parler longtemps

Alain

PS : si vous vous souvenez de quelques expressions imagées, faites moi signe et je les partagerai avec tout le monde. Merci.

 

Up up and away…

Birthdays are (most of the time) rather dull affairs. A cake, candles, a few cheers, and that’s it.
To celebrate my domestic partner’s red-letter day, I decided to take her for a ride… a hot-air balloon ride that is.
The first thing to remember about hot-air balloons is that (unlike bats) they take off shortly after sunrise, when there is a minimum of atmospheric turbulence.

For her birthday, I had told my mate to take the day off, without giving her any specific details about my intentions. I added a little later that on that day we would have to get up early.
How early, she asked?
5:00 a.m. I said. Holy mackerel, she exclaimed (I assume) in Russian.

Sunrise on Saturday October 26 was around 7:20 a.m. and I had been asked to report at the departing location at 6:30 a.m.
The distance from San Rafael to Yountville is about 40 miles, or 50 minutes by car. This means that we would have to leave San Rafael at 5:30 a.m. This also meant that if we wanted to have any kind of breakfast we’d better get up before 5:00 a.m.
So we did, and after a light snack, we left San Rafael around 5:30 a.m. and arrived in Yountville around 6:30 a.m.

There, we were briefed about hot-air balloons.
We were told that a balloon consists of a large bag called the “envelope” and a “gondola” (or wicker basket) that carries passengers. An experienced pilot would steer the craft. There was never any mention of parachutes.
All of us (about 30 people) were subsequently assigned a balloon. Ours was called Tango.

After this brief meeting, we were led to the adjacent parking lot where the beasts were being groomed and inflated.
It was an impressive and noisy operation. Heated air (by the means of a giant fan) is forced into the balloon to make it buoyant, and like a sleepy colossus, it rises majestically.

Four balloons were inflated at the same time and were readied to take off. Some carried 4 people, some 6 and ours the largest of them all (250 000 cubic feet) carried 12 passengers, plus the pilot.

The takeoff was almost imperceptible. We rose slowly and gained altitude without ever having the feeling of moving.
To my surprise, I discovered that the sky above the Napa Valley was filled with balloons, or at least 20 of them. They floated and rose silently past us us like giant pumpkins.

We drifted through the Napa Valley for about an hour while being steered and entertained by a very chatty (too chatty) pilot.
He flew his contraption with the greatest of ease. He lowered and made it rise seemingly at will. To spur its steed, he intermittently fired a kind of giant flame-thrower that pushed hot air into the envelope, and the balloon rose obediently.
While flying the beast he was in permanent radio contact with earthbound roadies that were following us with a van.

After about one hour aloft, the pilot set his sights on a landing spot. He told his crew about it and summoned them to an open area.
Once there, he lowered his craft and threw a line to his men.
They grabbed it and like Lilliputians they pulled the balloon down while the pilot was busy deflating the envelope. Something not unlike a Zeppelin landing.
We touched ground around 8:30 a.m. Mission accomplished! One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.

So, how did you like it, I asked my significant other.
I loved it, but I could have stayed up a little longer she said.
OK. Since you like it that much, on your next birthday I’ll send you up on a balloon around the world for eighty days. That should cool your jets for a while.

Alain

PS: To look at pictures of this event, turn the sound on, click on the “Home” link at the top of the page, and click again on “My photos” located on the right side of the page.